Last Tuesday, January 16th, marked the second week of this year’s legislative session. My colleagues and I spent the majority of the week with one of our most pressing responsibilities—working on the budget. The General Assembly is required to pass a balanced budget every year, and we do that by hearing from committees, state agency heads, and reviewing Governor Deal’s recommendations. The House and Senate Appropriations committee met throughout the week for joint budget hearings.
Gov. Deal’s Fiscal Year 2019 budget (FY 2019 budget) proposal is the largest to date in Georgia’s history! Our state has seen tremendous economic growth over the past few years, and this proposal reflects that. Georgia’s economic success paves the way for even greater improvements in education, transportation, healthcare, and other areas that affect all citizens.
Each year that we are able to maintain our title of the “No. 1 State in which to do Business” means more possibilities for growth in countless areas. The Governor highlighted the fact that Atlanta is a contender to host Amazon’s second headquarters. Our state economy has been consistently improving, so this does not surprise me!
Gov Deal gave his budget recommendations for several areas that I will highlight below.
The FY 2019 budget recommendations appropriates a great deal to our state’s infrastructure to ensure that it grows with our population and transportation needs.
- $1.9 billion to maintain and enhance our transportation infrastructure
- $100 million for bridge repair and replacement
- $25 million allocated from the Amended Fiscal Year 2018 budget (AFY 2018 budget) to expand runways at 11 airports.
Gov. Deal has also allocated a great deal of funds to our state’s education system. Investing in our state’s future leaders is vital to our state’s continued success. The AFY 2018 budget includes:
- $102.1 million for a midterm adjustment for K-12 enrollment growth
- $10.7 million for growth in the Dual Enrollment program.
- Fund allocation recommendations for the FY 2019 budget include:
$30 million to assist low‐wealth school districts
- $127.6 million to fund K-12 enrollment growth and training for Georgia teachers.
- $1.8 million for the REACH Georgia Scholarship program.
- $361.7 million for our state’s Teachers Retirement System
Georgia has invested nearly $240 million in behavioral health since 2011. Because of this, we have see a notable decline in the number of citizens committed into our behavioral health hospitals. We want to see even more improvements in healthcare in the years to come. Gov. Deal’s healthcare recommendations include:
- $15 million to continue to fund Georgia’s intellectual and developmental disabilities waiver services and to provide supportive housing for Georgians in need.
- $ 3.5 million from the AFY 2018 budget and $7 million from the FY 2019 budget towards the Children’s Autism Initiative.
- $22.9 million to fund crisis services, therapeutic foster care, Apex grants, telehealth services, suicide prevention, wraparound services, supported employment and education, and opioid prevention & treatment.
CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM
In my last blog post, I highlighted the success of accountability courts. These court systems provide alternatives to incarceration for non-violent offenders. The FY 2019 budget includes allocations for $5 million towards accountability courts, so we can continue establishing and operating them throughout our state. This will help low-level offenders get the assistance they need to get back on track and keep them out of the prison system.
Programs & Initiatives
Gov. Deal lastly gave his budget recommendations for certain programs and initiatives to meet the needs of Georgia citizens’ overall well-being. This included:
- $15.1 million for growth in out‐of‐home care utilization
- $10.1 million to continue to increase Georgia’s foster parent per diem rates
- $3.6 million to increase out‐of‐home care provider rates
- $256 million for Medicaid expense growth and to offset federal revenue and settlement loss.
The General Assembly heard more budget proposals from Gov. Deal that I will update you on as session continues. The House Appropriations subcommittees will hear and review even more proposals this week. Leaders of these subcommittees will eventually pass along their respective portion of the budget to their committees before the draft goes before the full House Appropriations Committee. This committee is tasked with reviewing and passing balanced budgets for AFY 2018 and FY 2019.
MORE SESSION UPDATES – HOUSE BILL 159
Last week, the Senate passed their version of HB 159. This bill passed unanimously in last year’s session and would modernize our state’s adoption laws for the first time in nearly 30 years. The House will review the Senate’s amendments the this bill, and we hope to get this bill signed into law very soon!
As you read this, my colleagues and I are working towards creating a balanced budget for our state and passing legislation that will support our state’s continued growth. Return next week to learn about the third week of the 2018 legislative session!
You are always welcome to come and visit me at my capitol office located at 601-C Coverdell Legislative Office Bldg. Atlanta, GA 30334. You can view my committee assignments for legislative term here. Please feel free to contact me by phone at 404.656.0254, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t hesitate to reach out throughout the legislative session with any opinions or questions you may have. I look forward to hearing from you!